SYDNEY, June 28 (PNA/Xinhua) — A review of elderly patients has found more than a third received invasive and potentially harmful end of life treatment, a study released on Tuesday revealed.
The University of New South Wales (UNSW) Australia-led study was based on the analysis of 38 studies over two decades and data from 1.2 million patients in 10 countries, including patients from Australia.
The results have prompted researchers to call for better training for hospital doctors and more community education.
Lead researcher Dr. Magnolia Cardona-Morrell from UNSW said rapid advances in medical technology have fuelled unrealistic community expectations of the healing power of hospital doctors.
“It is not unusual for family members to refuse to accept the fact that their loved one is naturally dying of old age and its associated complications and so they pressure doctors to attempt heroic interventions,” Cardona-Morrell said.
“Doctors also struggle with the uncertainty of the duration of the dying trajectory and are torn by the ethical dilemma of delivering what they were trained to do, save lives, versus respecting the patient’s right to die with dignity.”
The study also revealed 33 percent of elderly patients with irreversible conditions were given non-beneficial interventions such as chemotherapy in the last two weeks of life.
“Our findings indicate the persistent ambiguity or conflict about what treatment is deemed beneficial and a culture of ‘doing everything possible’,” she said.
“More training for doctors will help them let go of the fear of a wrong prognosis, because they will be better able to identify patients near the end of life.”
She urged the community to begin discussions with the elderly regarding end of life care preferences before they became too ill.
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